Breaking down the Sweet 16

Posted Sunday, Mar. 23, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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South

1. Florida (34-2)

vs. 4. UCLA (28-8)

approx. 8:45 p.m. Thursday, KTVT/11

Florida winning streak: 28

Last loss: Dec. 2, 65-64, at UConn

UCLA winning streak: 5

Last loss: March 8, 73-55, at Washington State

Texas connection: Bruins freshman forward Wanaah Bail played at Lamar Consolidated in Houston.

Matchup: Florida guards you to death and has three players who average in double figures. UCLA goes as leading scorers Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson go; that pair combines for 32 points per game and are exceptionally difficult covers. UCLA is more talented, but Florida is tougher and will punch and rough up UCLA.

Best player: Kyle Anderson, UCLA

Best pros from each team: Kyle Anderson, UCLA; Patric Young, Florida

Prediction: Florida over UCLA

10. Stanford (23-12)

vs. 11. Dayton (25-10)

6:15 p.m. Thursday, KTVT/11

Stanford winning streak: 2

Last loss: March 14, 84-59, vs. UCLA

Dayton winning streak: 2

Last loss: March 14, 70-67, vs. Saint Joseph’s

Local connection: Flyers freshman walk-on guard William DuPuy attended Grapevine.

Texas connection: Cardinal sophomore guard Christian Sanders attended Houston’s St. Thomas high school.

Matchup: Dayton’s fun run to the Sweet 16 has come via a pair of uncharacteristic wins. They averaged 72.5 points per game during the regular season, but they scored 60 and 55 points in their NCAA Tournament wins. The Flyers have a shot against Stanford because they rebound and go eight deep. Stanford is a problem because it’s big — five players 6-9 or taller — and because it plays inside-out.

Best player: Dwight Powell, Stanford

Best pros from each team: Dwight Powell, Stanford; Devin Oliver, Dayton

Prediction: Stanford over Dayton

Regional prediction: Florida

Original prediction: Florida

East

1. Virginia (30-6)

vs. 4. Michigan State (28-8)

approx. 8:57 p.m. Friday, TBS

Virginia winning streak: 5

Last loss: March 9, 75-69, at Maryland

Michigan State winning streak: 5

Last loss: March 9, 69-67, at Ohio State

Matchup: Outside of Florida, these are two of the hotter teams remaining. Both teams won their respective conference tournaments and are here because of defense. Michigan State suffered through a variety of injuries during the season but is now healthy and has one of the better starting fives in college basketball. Gary Harris, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling pose serious problems for a UVA team that plays a close-to-the-vest style like the Spartans and is not especially tall. This will come down to whether UVA can make its 3-pointers; UVA shoots 36.7 percent from 3.

Best player: Adreian Payne, Michigan State

Best pro from each team: Gary Harris, Michigan State; Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia

Prediction: Michigan State over Virginia

3. Iowa State (28-7)

vs. 7. Connecticut (28-8)

6:27 p.m. Friday, TBS

Iowa State winning streak: 6

Last loss: March 4, 74-61, at Baylor

UConn winning streak: 2

Last loss: March 15, 71-61, vs. Louisville

Matchup: Iowa State overcame a major loss when Georges Niang suffered a broken foot in its opening round game but defeated North Carolina in the second game despite his absence. The Cyclones are one of the best offensive teams in the nation, ranking No. 1 in assists and sixth in scoring. UConn relies on soon-to-be-pro Shabazz Napier, who is averaging 24.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2.5 steals in two tourney games. Iowa State should win this one because it is bigger and a little deeper.

Best player: Shabazz Napier, UConn

Best pros from each team: Shabazz Napier, UConn; Melvin Ejim, F, Iowa State

Prediction: Iowa State over UConn

Regional prediction: Michigan State

Original prediction: Michigan State

Midwest

4. Louisville (31-5) vs. 8. Kentucky (26-10)

approx. 8:40 p.m. Friday, KTVT/11

Louisville winning streak: 7

Last loss: March 1, 72-66, at Memphis

Kentucky winning streak: 2

Last loss: March 16, 61-60, vs. Florida

Local connection: Wildcats freshman forward Julius Randle attended Plano Prestonwood Christian.

Texas connection: Wildcats freshmen guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison attended Travis High School in Richmond.

Matchup: UK defeated Louisville 73-66 on Dec. 28 in Lexington, and this should be the best Sweet 16 game played. Both teams are athletic and loaded with talent. Louisville is the defending national champion and is better in the backcourt with Russ Smith and Luke Hancock. Kentucky is coming off its best game of the season — its Round of 32 win against Wichita State — and has enough potential NBA players to beat anybody. No one can handle Randle when he’s aggressive, which he often is.

Best player: Julius Randle, Kentucky

Best pros from each team: Russ Smith, Louisville; Julius Randle, Kentucky

Prediction: Louisville over Kentucky

2. Michigan (27-8)

vs. 11. Tennessee (24-12)

6:15 p.m. Friday, KTVT/11

Michigan winning streak: 2

Last loss: March 16, 69-55, vs. Michigan State

Tennessee winning streak: 3

Last loss: March 15, 56-49, vs. Florida

Matchup: One month ago Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin was rumored to be fired and now he is in the Sweet 16. The Vols are not as talented as Michigan, but they rebound and defend well; they rank 20th in the nation in rebounding. Michigan may not be as talented its runner-up team from last season, but Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III are a year older, and like any John Beilein team, the Wolverines can shoot it, 48 percent from the floor.

Best player: Nik Stauskas, Michigan

Best pros from each team: Mitch McGary, Michigan; Jordan McRae, Tennessee

Prediction: Michigan over Tennessee

Regional prediction: Michigan

Original prediction: Michigan

West

2. Wisconsin (28-7)

vs. 6. Baylor (26-11)

6:47 p.m. Thursday, TBS

Wisconsin winning streak: 2

Last loss: March 15, 83-75, Michigan State

Baylor winning streak: 2

Lass loss: March 15, 74-65, Iowa State

Local connection: Bears sophomore forward Isaiah Austin attended Grace Prep in Arlington; freshman Chad Rykoek attended Fort Worth Christian.

Matchup: The return of point guard Kenny Chery from injury gives Baylor four players — Austin, Jefferson and Brady Heslip — who can play and complement each other well. This is an athletic team that is a matchup problem for most teams because it is so active up front. Wisconsin is not tall, but it does not beat itself. Four players average in double figures.

Best player: Cory Jefferson, Baylor

Best pros from each team: Traevon Jackson, Wisconsin; Cory Jefferson, Baylor

Prediction: Baylor over Wisconsin

1. Arizona (32-4)

vs. 4. San Diego State (31-4)

approx. 9:17 p.m. Thursday, TBS

Arizona winning streak: 2

Last loss: March 15, 75-71, vs. UCLA

SDSU winning streak: 2

Last loss: March 15, 64-58, vs. New Mexico|

Local connection: Wildcats sophomore forward Zach Peters is from Plano and attended Prestonwood Christian Academy.

Texas connection: Aztecs sophomore forward Winston Shepard is from Houston.

Matchup: Arizona defeated SDSU 69-60 on Nov. 14 in San Diego. The Wildcats are more athletic, guard better and have superior interior players against what is another very good, but not good enough, Steve Fisher team. SDSU can play with Arizona but not win.

Best player: Aaron Gordon, Arizona

Best pros from best team: Aaron Gordon, Arizona; Xavier Thames, SDSU

Prediction: Arizona over SDSU

Regional prediction: Arizona

Original prediction: Oklahoma

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @macengelprof

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